Rupert Hohwieler 01/11/22
How to make it to Alexandra Palace?
You could dedicate basically every hour of the rest of your days to throwing darts at the pub…
But for those who don’t harbour life-long ambitions of competing at the World Darts Championships hosted at Alexandra Palace each year, it’s a lengthy walk (or bus, if you have the patience) from Wood Green station, and then up a steep hill in North London. While it’s infamously a bit of a struggle to get to, it’s worth the hardship, as beyond hosting the biggest comp in all of darts, Ally Pally (as it was affectionately anointed by Gracie Fields) can do it all: theatre, massive music gigs, boxing, ice hockey, ice skating, boating… the list goes on. It boasts the sort of finger-in-every-pie resumé that you’d probably find pretty insufferable if it were a human being, but as a building everyone loves it.
Despite the name, Alexandra Palace is not actually a proper palace with any royalty residing inside, though it was named after someone called Alexandra (the Princess of Denmark who was married to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales). It first opened on Queen Victoria’s 54th birthday in 1873 with the intention of serving as an entertainment centre for the general public, which gave it its other nickname, the People’s Palace. Since then, its history has been stop/start to say the least. It’s survived two fires, the first coming a fortnight after the initial launch (where the venue had to be completely rebuilt); two world wars; became a prisoner of war camp during WWII; and was the site (in 1936) of the world’s first high-definition broadcast TV service when it was the BBC’s production centre (you can even still see the transmitting mast today). Nowadays, Alexandra Palace is simply a Grade II-listed sports and entertainment venue, but as we mentioned earlier, there’s loads to do…
So, err, there’s peacefully peddling a dragon around a lake, donning fancy dress for the darts, catching a theatre production, hitting up the farmers market that happens every Sunday, making a tit of yourself tearing it up on either the ice skating rink or in the skate park, or partially losing your hearing at one of the many sell-out concerts. Some leave Ally Pally with a ruthless hangover, others with an ice cream – there’s something for everyone…
The iconic great hall – with a capacity of 10,000 – is where you get the music, which has seen anything from Hugh Cornwell’s last hurrah with The Stranglers to Fourtet’s crazy light installation show and the annual Kaleidoscope Festival. As one of London’s best-loved live music venues, seeing a gig here is truly bucket-list stuff. As for the theatre, it was roused from its 80 year slumber in 2018, where they purposely retained much of the old worn-down Victorian aesthetic in the long overdue refurb and it now hosts opera, drama, comedy and children’s shows.
Outside of the events, you can also cruise around Alexandra Palace’s lake on dragons, VW Beetles and flamingos (pedalo boats, for the record) and ice-skate in Manor House – open all-year-round – with the welcome bonus in winter of a free cup of mulled wine (just for the adults, obvs). For the great-outdoorsy folk, there’s 196-acres of woodland to explore, and the grounds are also said to be home to nearly 700 different types of wildlife. As you might have gathered, it requires some effort to get bored here…
Drink in the sweet panorama of the entire city glowing in front of you, as Alexandra Palace is home to one of London’s best viewpoints (the perks of being located 40 metres above sea level and on a hilltop). That view can be soaked up with a pint during the summer when the terrace is open, arguably the biggest beer garden in London. Other food stops include Phoenix Bar and Kitchen (possibly named after AP’s ability to continuously and literally rise from the ashes), Festival Village which serves street food and refreshments before the gigs, a coffee shop by the pitch & putt (yes, they have that too…) and a café by the lake. Each year, the grounds also play host to Streatlife, a weekend festival that brings together dozens of street food stalls, indie drinks producers and live music.
Which brings us to Alexandra Palace’s final cherry on top; another annual bonanza – the dazzling Bonfire Night festival.
It’s guaranteed fireworks…
NOTE: Alexandra Palace is open daily. We’ve only touched on a smidgeon of what’s possible here, so for the full music agenda, more events, more food and drink and everything else, you can check out the official website here.
Alexandra Palace | Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
Love getting out and about? Then take a peek at our guide to the best parks in London
Alexandra Palace Way, Wood Green, N22 7AY
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